42 years, Australia
Bright impressions are always expected from your trip to the mountains. While in the mountains, people are looking for themself, someone is expecting to meet interesting people, someone is in search of adventure, and others just want to immerse themself into mountain silence and clean air. But there is also another aspect. A trip to the mountains is always a significant cut to the budget, whether it is trekking to the Mount Everest base camp in Nepal, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, or another adventure from the popular 7 Summits collection. Any trip to the mountains is always serious and its planning and implementation must be carefully prepared. Only in this case your investment will be fully justified. So, how can you save on your next trip to the mountains?
It's no secret that the air ticket can make a significant contribution to the total cost of your trip. But you are wrong if you think that I will advise you how to find the cheapest ticket. Finding and buying a cheap ticket on special is not a rocket science anymore, even a child could do it. The question is how to buy such a ticket, that won't make you spend even more? And here I can help you.
Firstly, carefully read the baggage allowance policy. For instance, I have seen many people at the Kathmandu airport leaving a lot of expensive equipment at the check-in counter because each additional kilogram cost $50. Moreover, such situation is very familiar to me. Mountains are unpredictable. It's not sure that your baggage will be lighter or same as at departure at the end of the trip. So it's better to protect yourself beforehand from such unpleasant surprises, or at least have a plan B.
Secondly, pay special attention to such factors as changing the date of your flight and ticket refund for cancellation. Cheap rates do not always allow you to do this for free, sometimes you have to pay high rates, and the chance to get stuck in the mountains for few more days because of the weather is quite big. Of course, smart ass recommend buying tickets with two or three additional days for bad weather, but not everyone follows this advice, right Mom? By the way, your mountain expedition may end much earlier than you planned, because, like I said, mountains are unpredictable.
Well, in general, I do not mind buying tickets on special, just remember that everything has a price.
If you are going to the mountains for the first time, then you probably will not be happy with the cost of equipment, and most importantly - the amount of the required equipment. Consciousness simply refuses to accept the fact that you have to pay a nice sum of money for equipment that you may use just once.
In this case, equipment renting might be useful, but not always. And the problem here is not even in the quality of the equipment, which is often found at local rental agencies (for example, at Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania), as in its final value. Rental agencies are convenient in those cases when you take out the equipment for one or two days. But as mountain expeditions, normally, last more than one or two days, then a two-week lease of a satellite phone, snowshoes or ice ax can cost you exactly the same as buying new ones.
You will ask: "What to do? Isn't there a solution?". Well, there isn't much to do in this case, but still try to borrow at least some of the necessary equipment from your friends instead of buying new one. The Mountain Planet project is now preparing a release, which will allow the global alpine community to share their equipment with colleagues. So, I hope in the near future instead of carrying a couple of snowshoes or a heavy tent in your luggage, you can check their availability at your destination and try to negotiate with their owner about their use conditions or affordable rent.
If you are ready to join a group of people completely unfamiliar to you within the framework of your trip, one of the most effective ways to save on the cost of your mountain trip is to join an already equipped group that can easily take another participant on cheaper conditions. Just imagine, they split the cost of their trip between five participants and paid for all services, and then you appear and fit into the group on more favorable terms, because they get net profit on you.
There is one "but": how do you know that such an expedition exists and how to contact its organizers? As a rule, the research of such groups can start from visiting local outdoor clubs, or try asking around, but even this does not always help, despite the fact that the alpine community is a relatively small and everyone knows each other through one or two handshakes. Sometimes organizers create pages of their expeditions on Facebook, but it's rather difficult to find them, as these pages can be private, and in general Facebook was designed for other purposes, and mountain expeditions pages is not part of them.
That's why the Mountain Planet project provided an opportunity for all people to create mountain expeditions pages for free, by linking them to the profiles of the corresponding mountains and routes. We call it the global registry for both recreational and commercial expeditions. For example, check at this link, which expeditions start soon on Mount Elbrus, contact the organizers, and maybe you will be the lucky one who realizes his dream for half of its real value.
The best way to save on the services of a travel agency is by not accepting its services, or to minimize them. Everyone is able to request a visa, buy tickets and book hotels online. You do not need a travel agency for this. But it can really help you if you need any special permit for your expedition, and you do not want to spend your time figuring out bureaucratic delays and filling out a pile of documents. In addition, people get in touch with travel agencies to hire a guide, since the travel agency is the entry point for starting communicating with the guide, as well as a guarantee that your guide will turn out to be a professional with all the required licenses and certificates.
Unfortunately, in some cases, to get in touch with the guide, the travel agency can take significant commissions, which sometimes are comparable to its earnings, and the payment of these commissions is all on you, and precisely, on your pockets. While, organizing a serious mountain expedition you better hire a professional through a specialized travel agency, then during simple trekking or hiking routes, you may not need such a certified guide. It should be enough the fact that s/he is local, that s/he has all the necessary permits, that s/he has been working on this route for a long time and knows all nuances well.
In addition, not always the availability of all necessary certificates from the guide guarantees you the fact that you will be working with him or her comfortably. It is always better to clarify what kind of person s/he is, how s/he behaves towards the client, whether it is pleasant to talk with him or her, to be in his or her company and so on. The Mountain Planet project provides an opportunity for all those who wish to communicate directly with the guides registered on the site, as well as get acquainted with the list of their achievements, the number of organized expeditions, and other reviews left by others.
With the help of filters, you can easily sort all the guides by country of interest, or the spoken languages, or activity type. Any registered member can send a message to guides, so even if you eventually decide to use the services of a travel agency, you can at least ask the guide for advice, or ask him or her to help you plan your trip. Guides have also the opportunity to attach their resume to those mountains and routes they work, so when viewing information about a particular mountain you can always pay attention to the list of guides, or see the list of people who already did this route. You can ask them questions that concern you.
Recently, the climbing season on Mount Aconcagua has ended so take a look at the profile of this mountain and pay attention to the number of those climbers who updated their climbing status to this summit. You can ask for advice to all of them.
To be clear, I am not suggesting you to go to the mountains during wet seasons or any other unsafe time (hard winter, public holidays, revolution in the country and other troubles). Everything that I say below, refers to low season only. In fact, low season is not only related to the largest beach and ski resorts, but also to the climbing season. For example, the permit cost to Mount Aconcagua (the highest peak in South America) during high season costs almost twice than during the low season. And this trend can be found on many other popular climbing and hiking destinations.
With all this, in case of serious expeditions, I strongly advise you to forget about the price, and to choose those dates that according to statistics are the most successful in terms of stable weather and success rate. In my own perspective, in some cases it is better to overpay than underpay, because saving on good weather can turn to be more expensive.
Surf the Internet and find options on how to save on excursions (Groupon and other sites work pretty well to find big discounts). While, statuettes, masks, magnets and jewellery, of course, are wonderful, but at the same time completely useless, and quite expensive.. Wouldn’t it be better to choose a more useful souvenir? For example, such as a pack of natural ground coffee or a cup, from which at least you can drink.